The first thing that Deryn Sharp becomes aware of when she regains consciousness is the darkness. She's frightened for just a moment that she's been blinded. Then it all comes back to her. Escaping the Clanker camp, getting caught in the firefight, the broken communikator, Alek's fingers, the shed collapsing, the fight going right over their heads. The only part of the trail of memories flickering around her head that makes any sense is Alek's fingers. Alek's fingers are still entangled with hers, she notices, giving them a little squeeze. She spends a moment being surprised at how warm they are. But realizes quickly that they are in a tiny little space filled up by their body heat. It's what Russian fighting bears do, she remembers.
"Alek," she whispers.
Actually, there seems to be a lot of silence. It's warm and dark and quiet. If it weren't for her snowgear and the dirty floor, Deryn might have believed they were back in their own bed. A soldier at heart, she takes stock of their situation. They're trapped under a pile of rubble. Probably still in Clanker territory. No communikator. No idea what time it is. For that matter, she thinks to herself, she's not entirely sure what day it is. Blisters.
"Well," she says in a cheerful voice, "we're rightly screwed, aye?"
Her heart skips a beat.
"Alek?" She squeezes his hand.
"Alek," she says louder. She reaches out in the darkness and shakes him, "Alek, wake up you daft Prince!" She is trying to decide between crying and punching him, now, "Alek, Alek, Aleksandar," with his full name she gives him a strong shove.
"Was?" he says in a bleary, confused voice. "What, Deryn, liebe, what's going on?"
She feels her innards returning to their rightful places and pulls him closer to her. He's warm and solid and alive. She refuses to acknowledge that the terror of these last few moments have been worse than any battle she's ever weathered. For just an instant, she thought she'd lost him. But why doesn't he know where they are? "Don't you remember?" she asks slowly.
He's quiet for several long moments.
There is a lot of silence today, she thinks to herself.
"The communikator," he finally whispers.
"Aye. I imagine we're rightly surrounded by the pieces," she says as she stretches out. Her boots find a solid wall of debris that does not move.
"Can we get out?"
"I don't know. Try your side," she reaches out and gropes through the debris on her right side. Some of it might come loose, but they'd have to pull it into their already cramped hole. Alek discovers a similar situation on his left side.
"Do you think we should try to put up a signal, or something?" He asks.
"No, I don't think so. We don't know where we are. Better to die here than let the Germans find us, right?" She wishes she could see his face, and contents herself with reaching out to touch his cheek, but misses and nearly puts her hand in his mouth. "Sorry."
"It's okay," he says quietly, and covers her hand with his. "I guess we have to wait."
"I guess so. You feeling okay?" she asks, daring to raise her voice to a more normal volume. If no one came when she was shrieky earlier, they're probably safe.
"Hungry," he admits, "probably dehydrated, but at least we won't have to worry about what to do about that issue."
"I wish it wasn't so bleeding dark," she says, threading her fingers through his hair and down his neck, marveling at how familiar it feels. It's a small comfort, as she tries not to think about being trapped here forever.
"It's okay. At least we're safe for now," He says and strokes her face. She scoots closer to him and they hold tight to one another. At least, through the blackness, they have each other.
"Well, I guess we have some time to kill."
Alek shrugs, a gesture Deryn feels rather than sees, "It might be kind of nice, actually. We're always so busy we never get to talk."
"What are we going to talk about?! Oy, Alek," she begins sarcastically, "Are we still trapped? Why yes," she says, now in a very fake and affected Austrian accent, "I believe we are still underneath a collapsed shed."
"I mean, we get to talk about things," Alek continues, unfazed, "but not big things. For instance, what do you suppose happens when we die?"
Deryn sighs deeply, "Barking spiders, Alek, I don't know. They say in church if you do good you go to heaven, but I don't think floating around forever sounds very exciting."
"I know that's what they say in church, but what do you think?"
"Well," she threads her fingers through his dusty hair, "I figure we get bigger."
"We what, I'm sorry?" He tries to get a little bit more comfortable on the dirt and the rubble.
"Get bigger. I figure we get tossed into the sea or buried in the ground and eaten by tiny little beasties, then they get eaten by bigger beasties and so on until we're just... part of the air or the ocean or a fancy beastie like the Leviathan." It is a very nice idea, Alek thinks. It is strangely and delightfully Darwinist, but not blasphemous as he might have been taught. "What do you think?" she asks with a small shove.
"Oh, I don't know. I try not to think about it, generally," he says quietly.
"Why's that? You're the one that asked me," she points out as she untangles herself from him to try to remove some of her outer-wear.
"It's a little frightening, to be quite honest," divested of her thick coat, Deryn wraps herself back into Alek's embrace in time to feel him shudder, "The inevitability of it all, don't you think? Everything dies."
"Aye, but I think that's the comforting part. I won't be without my Da, or you or anyone else. Not for long anyway. We'll all be part of the whole same thing eventually." She has half a mind to kiss him, but isn't sure exactly where his face is, and contents herself with pressing her face against his warm, broad chest.
"I suppose that's true. It'd be good to be near my parents, even if I wasn't aware, per se." Alek reflects. They're quiet again for a long time.
They begin to play a silent game in which each attempts to make the other laugh, but it's difficult through layers of snow gear and when they can't see facial expressions. But Alek does find out that Deryn can't help but giggle when he brushes his fingertips over her stomach (but not when he actually attempts to tickle her). He only wishes that Deryn didn't already know that he's ticklish everywhere.
She isn't paying full attention anyway, because she's thinking about her Da and her mum, and wonders how Alek gets on without any parents at all. A new question strikes her:
"D'you think we'll ever have kids?" she asks.
Alek is glad it's dark so she can't see the look of surprise on his face. "I always assumed I would have children, but it was always required of me. Now that I have a choice in the matter... well, you're the only person I'd want to be parents with and I didn't imagine you would want children? I mean, do you?" As glad as he is that she can't see his face, he wants to see the look on hers. Is she frowning? Thoughtful? Smiling?
"I didn't," she says plainly. "There's a lot of bairns in the village. Noisy, dirty, things mostly. Keeping care of the bairns takes up most of the women's time. I always figured it's what kept them on the ground instead of flying. So I never thought I would want one. But I didn't think I would fall in love with anything other than flying, and, well, here you are."
"I guess I don't know. I don't bloody well think I'd like to be pregnant, but I think we'd have a good go of being parents. Between us we've got enough we could teach a wee bairn, I figure."
Alek has to stifle a laugh as he thinks about the special skills they could teach a child. Several languages, beastie handling, mechaniks, history... "Bravery," he says finally.
"Skulking," she adds.
"Cursing," he challenges.
"Cursing in six languages," she says as she snags at some of the buttons on Alek's coat.
"Starting revolutions," he replies, shrugging himself out of the garment and wrapping himself yet closer to her. He snaking his hand around her back just under her shirt and marvels at the smoothness of her skin.
She shudders and feels suddenly warmer and whispers into his ear, "Piloting."
"Flying," he growls, sliding his fingers up the strong curves of her back.
She trails her finger from his scalp to his eyebrows and down his nose to his lips, where she outlines his mouth, then presses lightly in a shushing motion, "Secret-keeping." He wonders if maybe the fact that he can't see her makes her touch all the more intimate, that this simple gesture sends fire shooting down to his toes.
"Loyalty," he gets out before she covers his mouth with hers.
Heat fills their tiny hideout, "love," she breathes.
"Love," he says back, and kisses her again.
Deryn thinks they couldn't possibly be further away from the sky, trapped under all of the rubble, but she can't help the feeling that she is soaring, being propelled by the ball of fire in the pit of her stomach. That same ball of fire that's urging her fingers to his shirt buttons.
"...barking time!" A far away voice says, and shocks them out of their embrace, "Sneaky beaks!" There is a series of crumbling noises.
"Bovril!" Deryn gasps.
"Sneaky beaks!" Bovril says, and they hear other voices. Men, including Volger, and the lone voice of a woman; Dr. Barlow.
"Hello!" Alek calls, "We're under here!" He hopes that Deryn won't be offended that he's trying to redress as quickly as possible, but realizes she is doing the same.
They hear Dr. Barlow say, "It seems perspicacious is somewhat of an understatement."
A stream of light comes through as someone lifts a board. They have to squint her eyes at the brightness. It must be early morning. Another shaft of light streams in and a furry little body falls on them.
"Oh Bovril!" Deryn says in a squeal that betrays her girlishness.
"Sneaky beaks!" Bovril says again, "about bloody time!"
As they're removed from the wreckage, they both breathe the cold winter air with relief and smile at one another with squinted eyes.
As they slowly follow Volger and Dr. Barlow back to the car, they walk closer together than ever with their fingers laced tightly and Bovril darting between their shoulders. He listens to Deryn explain what happened in her musical lilt and holds her yet closer. After being trapped right up next to her for so long, she feels far away.
"It was quite the adventure, aye your Princeliness?" She teases him with a wink as her story nears the end.
"Even being trapped for hours in rubble is an adventure with you, liebe."
An unexpected blush crosses her face, "Too right, quite the adventure."
"Quite the adventure," Bovril says, as they follow on to plot their next move.